How to back up Mac without Time Machine

4 min read

Are you wondering how to back up a Mac to an external hard drive without a Time Machine? Well, look no further; you've hit the information jackpot.

There's nothing like learning the hard way how important backups are. If something goes wrong with your Mac, and you haven't done any recent backups, you could face the devastating loss of unrecoverable work, files, images, data, and information. 

Backups are essential for any Mac user, but you don't have to rely on Time Machine. That's what we're here for, to show you the best ways to back up your Mac with or without Time Machine. Let's get started straight away.

Reasons to back up your data

  1. Your Mac could get damaged or stolen.

  2. Your drive could fail.

  3. It's challenging to recover data from SSDs.

  4. Malware infection.

Ways to back up your Mac

There’s plenty of different ways you can backup your Mac; let's take a quick look at some of the most popular and easiest options out there:

  • Time Machine.

  • Third-party software.

  • iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive.

Keep reading, and we'll take a closer look at some of these options further in the article. 

Why Time Machine backup might not be the best option

For years, Apple's native Time Machine backup software was the first port of call for users looking to secure their data against hard drive failure. 

Time Machine

With Time Machine, you can protect your files for free, automatically once configured, with relative ease. But while Time Machine gets the job done, its reliance on local storage, for many Mac users, isn't enough, leaving more and more people asking, "how to back up Mac without Time Machine?"

Here's an overview of some of the Time Machine pros and cons:


  • No monthly costs

  • Local backup

  • Versioning options

  • File previews


  • Time Machine can be slow

  • Utterly reliant on external drives

  • Drives can be damaged, lost or stolen

  • Malware infections can pass to external drives

  • Overcomplicated setup

Luckily, Time Machine isn't your only option. Jump to the next step to learn how to back up a Mac without a Time Machine.

How to back up Mac to an external hard drive

For those who like the idea of local backup, but not with Time Machine, did you know there's a manual way?

We'll get to the manual backup in just a moment, but first, more importantly, before you conduct any kind of backup, give your Mac a quick cleanup: there's no point in backing up all your system junk and clutter too. 

Take some time to clear away all of your built-up cache files, temporary or broken files, your Downloads folder, and empty your recycling bin. 

If you want to save time, I recommend using CleanMyMac X; they have a really awesome System Junk module that not only clears your system junk but optimizes your Mac at the same time; here's how:

CleanMyMac X - System junk scan complete

  1. Launch the app—download the free version here.

  2. From the left sidebar, select System Junk.

  3. Press Scan, then once complete, press Clean.

Now your Mac is nice and clean, let's take a look at manually backing up your data.

It's not as complex as you may have thought; all you need is an external hard drive with enough free space to back up your files.

Here's how to back up your data manually:

Mac desktop folder

  1. Plug your chosen external hard drive in; once loaded, open it.

  2. Create a new folder inside and give it a name.

  3. Locate your Mac startup disk in Finder or on your desktop and open it. Press Users, then select all the folders and data you want to back up, drag this into your newly created file on your external drive and wait for the copy to finish.

That's it! This can take a while if you're copying over lots of files. Don't forget to eject your external hard drive safely; failing to do so can corrupt files and folders. Here's how:

How to eject your drive

  1. Select your external drive either via Finder or via your Desktop.

  2. Right-click and select Eject.

How to back up Mac to a cloud storage

If you don't like the sound of a manual backup, no problem, there's plenty of third-party backup tools with cloud storage available; here are my top three recommendations.

1. EaseUS Todo Backup

EaseUS Todo Backup for Mac is a reliable data backup and disaster recovery tool, combining macOS clone with file sync functions, data backup, and archive. 

EaseUS screenshot

Let's look at some of the highlights:

  • Free trial available

  • 30-day money-back guarantee

  • Tech support

  • Over 530 million users worldwide 

For anyone looking for Time Machine alternatives, this is a great option. 

2. SuperDuper

SuperDuper for Mac is considered a user-friendly backup and recovery tool. Even the most untechnical Mac users would find this easy to use with its clean and straightforward interface. 

SuperDuper highlights:

  • Free trial available

  • Wide range of features

  • Hard drive clone

3. ChronoSync

ChronoSync is an all-in-one solution for backups, file syncs, cloud storage and bootable backups. A comprehensive and reliable choice, let's take a closer look:

ChronoSync screenshot

  • Free trial available

  • File and folder synchronization​

  • Quick recovery

  • Backup to external or network Volumes

Knowing how to back up your Mac to an external hard drive without a Time Machine not only gives you options but empowers you to make the right choice for you.

No matter which option you choose, manual or third-party tools, backups are vital against data loss; make them regular, and don't forget to clean your Mac up first.

Happy backing up, and we'll see you again soon.

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